Monday, 28 January 2008

Beware groupthink!

Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. ...

The distortion of reality testing and suspension of critical thinking which can occur in highly cohesive teams. Groupthink has been used to explain disasters such as Chernobyl and massive errors of political judgement such as the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion of Cuba sponsored by the United States.

As a long-time management professor, I used to depart from the purely academic and esoteric from time to time to actually teach something of value to my students. For instance, when discussing the decision-making process, learning game theory has its moments, but I would also sneak in something more homely such as how to run a good meeting that discouraged obstacles to reaching the best solution.

Something that I attempted to impress upon my students (as they sat there gaping in wonder at my erudition) was to avoid groupthink at all costs. There is no greater impediment to making the best decision than to be satisfied with the current collective wisdom or group consensus.

What I have found over the years, as I've bounced from employer to employer, and more importantly from job sector to job sector, is how individuals and groups allow themselves to be arbitrarily constrained by the norms in their respective environments.

Take the religious front as an example. Having worked and worshiped with Mennonites, I have found that many of them think that they are the only ones who really understand pacifism.

Similarly, having worked with people of the Reformed community, they think that they are the only ones that really understand social justice. For example, as we were about to interview a candidate for a senior administrative position at a Reformed college where I was once employed, one of the search committee members said, "Well, we're about to find out if an Arminian knows anything about social justice." I'm Arminian and no one had ever questioned my knowledge of, or commitment to, justice simply because they were not aware of my theological persuasion.

[An Arminian rejects the Calvinist doctrines of predestination and election and believes that human free will is compatible with God's sovereignty.]

If people from either of these theological groups were to stick their heads outside of the holy huddle, they would find that they are greatly mistaken as to who believes what, and could strike whole new alliances in the fight for peace and justice in the world.

Similarly, I found as a public school board trustee that teachers tend to look at the world of education a certain way. So do university professors, but it's a different way. I surprised the socks off of my university colleagues once by having a high school teacher run one of my classes so that I could actually learn how to teach.

Managers tend to see the purpose of business life just like the business schools teach it. Union members and leaders take a very different view. But since they assume that each other is wrong, and don't often look for common ground, they develop absurd notions about each other. In addition, groups strongly discourage any challenge to this status quo thinking.

The tendency to assume that all that is important to think or know can be found in this group, with any dissenting voice being shouted down or ignored without question, is called groupthink.

And the world is rife with it.

How else do you explain how otherwise intelligent and responsible people could believe such things as:

1. Jefferson Davis, president of the U.S Confederacy: "We recognize the Negro as God and God's Book and God's Laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him -- our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude . . . You cannot transform the Negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be."

2. Winston Churchill to the Palestine Royal Commission, 1937.: "I do not admit...that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race...has come in and taken its place."

3. U.S. President (and Ph.D.) Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Millikan: All of these believed ardently in eugenics, a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. Hitler believed it as well.

4. British Prime Minister Asquith on the extension of the voting franchise to women: "The natural distinction of sex, which admittedly differentiates the functions of men and women in many departments of human activity, ought to continue to be recognised in the sphere of Parliamentary representation…The question: ‘Why should you deny to a woman of genius the vote, which you would give to her gardener’ (is answered in this way). You are dealing, not with individuals, but with the masses, in my judgement the gain which might result through the admission of gifted and well-qualified women would be more than neutralised by the injurious consequences which would follow to the status and influence of women as a whole."

Such opinions as these aren't held by such public figures without widespread support. Whether because of ignorance (willful or otherwise), arrogance, wrong teaching, group pressure, even good intentions, racist and sexist comments such as those above shaped public policy for decades, if not centuries.

It is only in my lifetime that views of the inherent inferiority of women, blacks, 1st Nations people and the many whom the eugenics movement dismissed as substandard have been more or less rejected by society.

On the life issues front we see this same phenomenon of groupthink distorting perspective. Pro-choice advocates, who are committed to the rights of women but also believe that women's rights trump unborn babies' rights, have concluded that pro-life advocates take a patriarchal view that women lack rights and should still be exploited and coerced.

See, for instance a column written by Jonathan Kay in the Jan. 28/08 edition of the National Post, quoting women at a celebration of the Morgentaler decision held at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Note the closed-mindedness of some of the comments, and the assumptions underlying them:

1. Osgoode Hall Law School professor Shelley Gavigan, the most militant and stereotypically feminist of the conference panelists, declared categorically that “The unborn child and the pregnant mother speak with one voice — and that voice is hers.” The fact that some of her students didn’t see things her way only meant that “I have some work to do on the pedagogical front.”

2. writer Heather Mallick likewise expressed approval of student associations that cut off funding to pro-life groups — because “the rights of Canadian women “are not up for debate.” She also theorized that pro-life stirrings in the mainstream media were mostly the result of over-the-hill male editors seeking to control through repression the lithesome bodies that, in their decrepitude, they could no longer enjoy in the bedroom.

3. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett put up a slide entitled “Role of an elected official,” which declared that politicians have “no right” to oppose abortion — because “That is the responsibility of women.”

4. Kay noted that the issue of whether there is a point beyond which an abortion should be inappropriate (e.g., 24 weeks such as is the case in Britain) was barely mentioned. One brief exchanged centred around whether a late-term foetus would feel pain: "A male student rose during the Q&A to broach the issue indirectly with legendary Canadian abortion doctor Garson Romalis. The student asked whether late-term unborn children should be supplied pain-killers as part of the abortion procedure. Romalis (who, by way of background, has survived two murder attempts by pro-life fanatics) dismissed any evidence that aborted fetuses feel pain." (See N.B. below)

Astonishing, really. If any of my students feel differently than I do it's because I haven't taught them right yet. Differences of opinion among students should be made illegal on topics that are important to me and my colleagues. Men are not fit to have an opinion because they are too old or simply because they are male and could never understand. Finally, don't confuse me with evidence; my mind is made up.

Classic groupthink. Jefferson Davis, Winston Churchill, Margaret Sanger and Prime Minister Asquith would be proud.

Regrettably, stereotypical approaches to thinking are not missing from the pro-life side either. No matter how well intentioned, or ardently believed, groupthink is groupthink.

Prime Minister Harper is probably the first government leader in a long time who could help out this situation. He has publicly stated that he does not easily fit into either the pro-life or pro-choice camp. Curiously both Paul Martin and Jean Chretien claimed to be personally pro-life but publicly pro-choice because of separation of church and state.

Martin, for instance, said “I am a practicing Catholic and I have responsibilities as a legislator and those responsibilities must take in a wider perspective.”

Chretien, also a Catholic, was questioned about his views at a Catholic school at the beginning of the 2000 federal election campaign: A student asked him for his views on abortion, and he startled his audience by saying, "For me, I am a Roman Catholic. I am not at the age any more to have my wife have an abortion."

His wife was sitting a few feet away and the audience gasped. Chretien continued, "But the reality is that it is the choice not of the husband to decide in my judgment, it is the judgment of the woman according to the values that this person have" (Globe & Mail, Oct. 31,2000).

Harper, not having painted himself into any corners, could promote an environment of actual dialogue on life issues via government-sponsored conferences. He's commissioned enough other studies on controversial topics. But he doesn't seem to see the need. Pity. We could sure use less groupthink around these issues.

N.B. Within a couple of hours of publishing this post, I found the following article in today's on-line version of Britain's Telegraph. The article is entitled "Babies feel pain before 24 week abortion limit."

Babies in the womb can feel pain from an early stage of development, according to research by the world's leading expert on foetal pain. Prof Sunny Anand of the University of Arkansas will present his report into foetal pain to MPs discussing changes to abortion law on Monday night. His research concludes that the part of a baby's brain that can feel pain develops before the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks.

Do you think that we dare tell Dr. Romalis?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Of smoke holes and the sanctity of life

As you my faithful reader (YMFR) know, I was a municipal politician for 21 years, specifically a public school board trustee. While much of our attention was taken up with matters of budgets, infrastructure, straightening out the Ministry of Education, and so on, from time to time we would turn our attention to issues of social consequence.

Some of these issues were complex, bringing with them various human rights such as privacy rights (e.g., locker searches) or the need to know (e.g., AIDS). Religious freedoms were sometimes a factor; e.g., the wearing of the kirpan (a ceremonial steel dagger symbolizing determination to defend the truth), the sexuality curriculum, or 1st Nations spirituality.

The difficulty with many complex and nuanced issues is that legislation and school board policy provide fairly blunt instruments for properly (or should I say, improperly) dealing with them. A policy, or especially a law, that is uncreatively interpreted or applied in a heavy handed manner, can actually do more harm than good. Things become even worse if some forms of political correctness bring their uncritical pressure to bear.

An example of the latter is smoking. I am a life-long non-smoker and hate the habit. I watched my mother die over a three-year period from lung cancer (she was never a smoker herself), a common life-ending experience for smokers. On the other hand I have had relatives and good friends who did (or still do) smoke, and I have seen the extent to which nicotine can get its claws into an otherwise rational person, making it seemingly impossible to quit despite what the smoker's brains are telling her.

It has become very "in," at least in political circles, to be extremely hard on smoking and on smokers. In my early days on the school board we banned smoking in the staff rooms. One or two disgruntled puffers actually took early retirement rather than give up the habit. Student smoking was limited to an out-of-the-way smoke hole either in the school building or on the grounds. Education regarding the effects of smoking was emphasized in school. I happily voted for these measures. And there is no question that smoking did drop somewhat.

But as more scientific evidence came out, and other levels of government took a more aggressive approach, so did our school board. If a student was spotted carrying smoking materials, these were seized. Smoke holes were banned. School air became fresh, fresh, fresh.

Did this solve the smoking problem once and for all? Hardly. As I mentioned, no one decides to smoke for rational reasons. Everyone knows the potentially deleterious effects and the incredibly addictive nature of nicotine. One can't escape the posters illustrating all of the harmful chemicals that are part of a cigarette. But many young people persist in taking it up for reasons that have nothing to do with rational thought.

So rather than cure anything, we just pushed it away--in this case onto the sides of busy roads, into neighbouring yards, down at the street corners, into areas of increased student vulnerability. We also fueled the irrationality of it all, giving the young addicts the sense of being mavericks bucking the system.

Of course as local politicians we were applauded for doing the right thing. We could feel really good about fulfilling our duty to society as progressive thinkers. That we had done nothing for the people who needed it most (young smokers) was not a troubling thought to my colleagues.

All of this went through my mind as I read recent comments by (so-called) pro-choice writers celebrating the Morgentaler decision of 1988 that eliminated any abortion law in Canada. The only things missing in the adulation were a crown for the old boy or demands that he become Governor-General.

Amidst the hoopla, however, was the concern expressed that we had just begun. Open season was not enough. Greater access to abortion services was now key. Consider, for instance, the opinion of one Andre Picard in the Jan. 24, 2008 issue of the Globe and Mail:

THE MORGENTALER DECISION: TWENTY YEARS LATER Choice? What choice? Two decades after the landmark ruling on abortion rights, poor access and a lack of treatment alternatives still hamper a woman's ability to choose

On Saturday night in Toronto and at a number of events across the country in coming days, women will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the momentous Morgentaler decision. And celebrate they should, all the while remembering that much remains to be done to ensure that reproductive choice exists in this country.

While the highest court ruled that the state has no place in the uteruses of the nation, the state does have a role in the provision of medically necessary health services, of which abortion is one.

Yet our health system - from the politicians who oversee it to the policy makers and administrators through to the physicians and nurses who should provide non-judgmental care in public institutions - has largely failed women who seek abortions. The failings are many and varied, but revolve principally around lack of access to timely care.

It would be very difficult, at least in the circles where I spend much of my time (academic and political) to fight this view. To suggest that greater access and open season are, at best, short-term band-aids that provide no long-term solutions, would be tantamount to uttering blasphemies (or whatever the secular equivalent is).

But I see a clear parallel here between our smoking ban and the results of the Morgentaler decision. Neither decision solved key problems.

What issues cause problem pregnancies in the first place?
1. Poverty.
2. Relentless family pressure.
3. Fear of abuse or desertion.
4. Rape or incest.
5. Medical concerns (these latter two represent about 5% of abortions).
6. Feelings of hopelessness.
7. Age.
8. Lack of support to see the pregnancy through.
9. And others.

Now what does access to abortion do to cure poverty? To turn a husband from an abuser and a boyfriend from a deserter into a supportive male? To make employers celebrate rather than penalize pregnancy? To improve daycare? To create societal infrastructure that gives pregnant women and girls the support they need? To help people become more disciplined sexually? To get women and girls out of harmfully dependent relationships?

Nothing. Nada. Rien. Squat. Yet one vocal (so-called) pro-choice advocate decried crisis pregnancy centres as nothing but disguised attempts to end abortion.

So what are we celebrating? Society finally addressing the many ills that turn pregnancies into crises? Quite the opposite. We are celebrating the ending of human life as a short-term and wholly inadequate alternative to celebrating, cherishing and sanctifying life.

Abortion cheapens life, plain and simple. It is another token of a society bankrupt of ideas or the will to do the hard work of making life better.

Abortion is unjust. Women are its victims.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

All you unborn babies now--3 cheers for Henry!

How important is the R vs Morgentaler case here in Canada? Look at all the events being held to celebrate this landmark case that left Canada as the only western nation with no abortion law. I've listed the venues or supporters in some cases as well, just to give you a flavour of mainstream support that there is for our present open season on unborn babies:

1. University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R v. Morgentaler, Of What Difference: Reflections on the Judgment and Abortion in Canada Today. This symposium will examine the significance of the judgment today: What difference has it made to women, providers, and the politics of abortion in Canada?

2. Fundraising Reception for National Abortion Federation Canada’s Patient Assistance Fund. Many women lack the resources to pay for costs associated with abortion care, such as transportation, childcare, and medications. Also, some women cannot access medical coverage and require financial support. Donations to this fund will allow NAF Canada to provide financial assistance when it is urgently needed.

3. Ryerson Univ., Toronto. Another World is Possible: Cultures of Resistance. An evening of music, art, film, and poetry inspired by diverse struggles for justice as part of the World Social Forum Global Day of Action, and a special tribute to the reproductive choice movement on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Canada.

4. Planned Parenthood Ottawa will be peacefully standing outside the
Morgentaler Clinic at 65 Bank Street to thank Dr. Henry Morgentaler and to remind everyone that there is still an ongoing struggle for accessibility nation-wide. If you would like to join us, please do. Bring pro-choice signs, bring your friends, sisters, brothers, coworkers, and neighbours. We anticipate anti-choice groups to be there as well. Also, on Tuesday, January 22, from 3pm-9pm, please come to a poster-making session for the rally at Planned Parenthood Ottawa, 251 Bank Street, Suite 201

5. House of Commons, Canada's Parliament Buildings, Ottawa. Gala Night, featuring Honourable Senator Lucie Pepin, Judy Rebick, video presentation from Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and performers Lesley Hoyles (singer), the Asinabika Women's Drumming Circle, and introducing Peggy Cooke, winner of the Pro-Choice Canada Contest,Women's Centre, University of Regina.

6. Simon Fraser Univ., Vancouver campus. The Morgentaler Decision: Before and Beyond. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision that finally gave Canadian women true reproductive choice. New documentary film "Henry."

I wonder what might happen if pro-life professors from the Univ. of Toronto Law School, or Ryerson, or Regina, or Simon Fraser were to hold events examining what poll after public poll says about Canadian's views of our present non-law on abortion? Such events would be denounced by the pro-abortionists as anti-woman--even though most Canadian and American women support restrictions. The profs would be criticized by their faculty colleagues, despite their academic freedom. Tenure and promotion decisions would now be in jeopardy.

What a hypocritical world we live in!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

But let justice roll down like waters.....

....and righteousness as a mighty stream (Amos 5:4).

There are people of a certain age who cannot hear this verse without thinking of THE speech, "I Have a Dream," delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, feels that things have not changed much from King's day 'til now.

Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run

We (i.e., the U.S.) believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.

As a Caucasian Scottish-Canadian it is not for me to say how African-Americans should feel about the progress in race relations, although I would certainly agree that life is still a lot easier for someone of my race here in North America than his. Clearly Dr. Wright feels that justice is not yet rolling down like it must.

What prompted my thinking about justice as the eighth century BC prophet Amos, and, I suspect, Martin Luther King understood it, was an interview done recently with Dr. Henry Morgentaler. 2008 is the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada decision to legalize abortion, a case known officially as Morgentaler v Her Majesty the Queen. This has prompted a number of interviews with Dr. Morgentaler. View, for instance, this site:

Morgentaler is not only Jewish, but a survivor of the Holocaust. He was asked whether his experiences in the horrific Nazi death camps developed his sense of justice:

Did the fact that you survived Dachau and Auschwitz help you? I'm not sure it helped me - it's hard to judge. The fact I survived through the concentration camps gave me a heightened feeling of injustice and I saw injustice meted out to women who needed abortions.

So in a way your experience in the concentration camps is responsible for abortion rights in Canada. To a certain extent, yes. I was sensitized to injustice and when I was in a position to do something about it, I felt it was a duty to do so, at whatever risk there was. I had a feeling I was fighting for fundamental justice.

Morgentaler was jailed for performing illegal abortions prior to 1988. He was asked why a man would go to jail for women's rights:

Do you find it strange that it was a man going to jail for this and not a woman? Well, I never thought about it that way [laughs]. I think to me it was a fight for justice. Whether it was a woman who undertook that or a man, to me it didn't really matter too much. I was a medical doctor, I was in the forefront of this fight and I was qualified to help women and I didn't see any reason why I should be prevented from doing that.

Like King, Morgentaler sees his cause in justice terms. Civil rights and reproductive rights. Freedom from domination by Caucasians and domination by men. Support for the downtrodden. "Free at last! free at last!"

While there certainly are some points of similarity between the fight for civil and women's rights, there is one enormous difference which calls into question Morgentaler's use of the term 'justice' to describe his accomplishments.

Justice for African-Americans did not require the oppression or exploitation of some other vulnerable group. Justice for women, as Morgentaler understands it, did.

Biblical justice, as Amos proclaimed it and Martin Luther King demanded it, is not to be confused with either retributive justice (the meting out of just desserts in a court of law) or even restorative justice (peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights), although these are both biblical principles as well.

The reference is to distributive justice; i.e., the distribution of society's benefits and burdens in an equitable manner. No doubt the Rev. King was well acquainted with this principle and understood what it meant in the biblical context.

What does it mean?

If you want to do a little bible study in your spare time, have a look at the Old Testament seventh and sixth century B.C. prophecy of Jeremiah 22:13-17. The little nation of Judah, with its capital at Jerusalem, had seen the death of its great and godly king Josiah at the hands of the Egyptians, and the rather less impressive reigns of Josiah's three sons and grandson. Jeremiah gives a pretty savage critique of these so-called leaders, and in doing so gives us the template for biblical justice.

Jer. 22:13-15a, 17. Injustice is defined as the exploitation of, or ignoring of the legitimate concerns of anyone who is marginalized, pushed to the periphery, is unable to fend for herself.

Jer. 22:15-16a. Justice is defined as not only avoiding the exploitation of the vulnerable (the passive side of justice), but in fact becoming their champion (the active side of justice--love in action).

Jer. 22:16b. Jeremiah says that the pursuit of justice is the very essence of knowing (being a follower of) God. The word "know" here is the same word used for the most intimate kind of knowledge such as sexual intimacy.

This notion of what it means to do justice was emphasized again and again by Old Testament writers. See, for instance, Psalm 37:30 (speak justice), Proverbs 12:5 (think justice), Proverbs 21:15 (enjoy justice), Psalm 12:5 (expect justice), and Micah 6:8 (do justice).

And it doesn't stop there. At one point Jesus is challenged by his cousin, John the Baptist, to affirm his credentials as God's coming Messiah. At the time, John is in jail and Jesus doesn't seem to be heading up the expected rebellion against the Roman oppressors. Look at this marvelous exchange in the New Testament book of Luke, chp. 7.

7:18-20 - Calling two of them (his disciples), [John the Baptist] sent them to the Lord (i.e., cousin Jesus) to ask, "Are you the one who was to come (i.e., the long awaited Messiah), or should we expect someone else?"

Given the Messianic expectations of the time (a great warrior king who would kick Roman butt all the way back to Italy), one might have expected Jesus to frame his response in certain terms. But note how Jesus defines his messianic credentials:

7:21-22 - At that time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."

Pure biblical justice--championing the needs of the most vulnerable.

Jesus' brother James, when writing a letter after the resurrection in response to questions from Christians, indicated that he had learned Jesus' lesson well. It would appear that James had been asked to define the essence of the new Christian religion. His answer is consistent with all that we have quoted above:

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Righteousness and justice--two words that appear together more than 50 times in the Old Testament.

I feel safe in concluding that when Martin Luther King quoted Amos 5:4, he chose the passage very deliberately because of its biblical meaning. It was American society's responsibility to champion the needs of its most vulnerable citizens and raise them up to the same level of worth and opportunity as the more advantaged ones.

I heartily agree with Dr. Morgentaler that women were (and are) another worthy candidate for justice. But not by ending the life of another highly vulnerable group--unborn babies. This is not justice at all.

Now you see why the pro-abortion side (Morgentaler has done over 100,000 abortions himself) is so dead set against granting personhood to fetuses. If that were ever to happen, then their version of justice would go out the window, and women would have to be supported in a completely different way.

Pro-life people need to do more to pursue justice for women as well. But it does not stop with bringing down the abortion rate. That's a bare beginning.

Monday, 7 January 2008

If King Cyrus can be a messiah....

In the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, the Persian King Cyrus is referred to as God's shepherd (44:28), and even more remarkably, as God's Messiah (45:1). It's important to remember that Cyrus was not a worshiper of the Jewish God (Yahweh) nor was he Jewish (far from it). Yet he is described in the most elevated language because of the service he rendered to the Jewish people.

Well, I think that we have a modern-day Cyrus on our hands--a vegetarian and animal rights activist named Vasu Merti.

His take on religion in public life is as follows: Regardless of any cherished personal beliefs we may hold, bringing unprovable religious creeds or texts such as the Bible into the secular political arena is comparable to bringing "Grimm's Fairy Tales" into a Strategic Defense meeting. No Religious Right member, he.

You are probably wondering why I am calling him a latter-day Cyrus. Read on.

I perused with intense interest an interview given by this decidedly liberal writer and activist ( Merti is a member of the ACLU and PETA. This does not necessarily make him left-wing. But he very much identifies with the left/liberal side of the political and social spectrum. Yet he has recently published a book entitled The Liberal Case Against Abortion. The forward is written by Carol Crossed of Democrats for Life.

Merti makes points that any traditional, more right-wing pro-lifer would resonate with; e.g.,

1. The argument about "a woman's right to control her own body" [is] based on a false premise, because there are clearly two bodies (mother and child) present during pregnancy.

2. Do the unborn have rights? Roe v. Wade stands out as an oddity, because it came at the end of the Vietnam era…at a time when we were expanding our concept of rights to include women and minorities.

On the other hand, he takes positions that might send the Moral Majority to the hospital's emergency ward; e.g.,

1. Because my book is aimed at liberals, I mention the "consistent-ethic" movement: pro-lifers simultaneously opposed to capital punishment. I mention LGBT activists who compare discrimination against the unborn to discrimination against lesbians and gays. I call for expanding the welfare state to provide for pregnant women, single mothers and their children.

2. It is legal nonsense that privacy conveys the right to abort, but not the right to ingest drugs or engage in sodomy…It will be interesting to watch the court sort out on the basis of Roe v. Wade why it is legal for a woman to contract for abortion but not prostitution.

I value the interview because he does get away from the standard arguments and provides excellent material for use in pluralistic contexts. I recommend that you read it with an open mind to learning from a different voice.